KAFKA ON CLARK STREET... Emanuel administration hacks strangle Chicago democracy... David Vitale and Barbara Byrd Bennett teamed up to eviscerate the video of the May 22 Board meeting... Government manhandling of protesters is edited out of Emanuel's Hollywoodized version of 'reform'

The gutting of the video version of the May 22, 2013 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education is unprecedented even for a school system that has systematically censored part of the public record of its meetings since 1996, when the airing of the monthly meeting of the Board began on Chicago Cable TV. More then ten years ago, Substance exposed the fact that the video version presented on the Saturday after the Board meeting was edited, usually to leave out certain embarrassing moments that the Board members and executives didn't like. But for the most part, those editings were brief. After the initial exposure of that fact, CPS began noting, at the beginning of each broadcast, that the video had been edited and should not be seen as an official record of what happened at the meeting.

CPS CEO BBB during the vote to screw more than 60 of Chicago's real public schools on May 22, 2013. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.But the over-the-top gutting of the video of the May 22, 2013 Board meeting is truly unprecedented. Along with three other Substance reporters -- Marybeth Foley, David Vance, and Kati Gilson -- I was there for the whole thing, from the singing of the Star Spangled Banner to the final vote on the school closings (which didn't name the schools). There is almost no relationship between what appears on TV and what was happening during the Board meeting. Thanks to David Vitale, Barbara Byrd Bennett, and Jadine Chou's security squadron, we are now faced with what can only be called "Kafka on Clark St." Dramatic protests, serious criticisms, and ruthless security attacks on those trying to object to what the Board was doing have simply been edited out of the semi-official versions we can get on Cable TV.

At least 20 minutes of what took place during the actual meeting of the Board of Education have been censored and removed from the official TV version of reality released to the public by CPS on May 25, 2013. Virtually all of the dramatic police state tactics used against dissenting parents, teachers and community leaders have been eliminated from the visuals, often with droll impact: the choppy editing leaves even the inattentive viewer saying "Say WHATTTT?" The video quickly ends from one speaker in mid-sentence only to begin with another. Even some prominent people have been left on the Board's cutting room floor, in whole or in part.

The Board of Education finally got around to its "Public Participation" at 11:00 a.m. when the Board began hearing from the unprecedented nine aldermen who showed up to testify. Unlike the six members of the Board of Education, all of the aldermen had been elected in a democratic manner. Unlike the chief administrators now earning six figure salaries in public education in Chicago of the Board of Education, all of the aldermen had experience in Chicago. The first speaker to be pulled away from the podium after the secretary called "Time" was Shannon Bennett of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO). Bennett, who has been working on Chicago schools issues longer than any of the members of the Board of Education or the top executives and who has actual roots in the community, began speaking against the closings and was quickly surrounded by security. After a brief skirmish, during which security staff snatched away the microphone and pulled back the speakers' podium, Bennett and his colleagues were herded from the room. Substance photo by David Vance. The censorship had begun, thanks to the new policy of sign-in for public participation, even before the members of the "public" began to speak. While CPS has been hiring almost no one from Chicago for top executive positions during the past year (Barbara Byrd Bennett came from Detroit, bringing one of her aides from there; dozens from out of town have been hired since then), the six members of the school board have made sure that the members of the public are rarely or never heard during Board meetings. How? By limiting both access to the sign-in and the time for "public participation."

Since January 1, 2013, the Chicago Board of Education, for the first time in its history, instituted a policy of restricting the number of people who were permitted to sign up to speak and bring issues before the Board's monthly meetings. Board President David Vitale told the public and the press in late 2012 that beginning January 2013, the Board would "save" people the trouble of signing up to speak by permitting on line registration for public participation. During previous years, at times when there were major issues before the Board, dozens of people would begin lining up early in the morning to sign up at CPS headquarters to speak. Although the Board officially stated that it would allocate a total of 120 minutes (two hours) for public participation, the amount of time had often varied because when a large number of people signed up, the Board members listened until the last person had spoken.

The restriction came from the Board's typical wooden application of a rule. According to the Board, each person who participates in "public participation" gets two minutes to speak. The Board allocates a total of two hours to all of "public participation" -- no matter how many major issues are before the Board. At each point where security surrounded and stopped a speaker on orders from David Vitale and Barbara Byrd Bennett, the TV monitor (above left) switched the scene from the public skirmish that was taking place to the bland face of the Board secretary, Estela Beltran. As a result, even many members of the public who were at the Board building but not actually in the meeting room were misled about what was happening. Hundreds of people opposed to the closings had been herded up to a so-called "holding room" on the 15th Floor, where they were only shown the Board's version of its public meeting on closed circuit TV. Meanwhile, more than 50 seats in the fifth floor Board chambers were occupied by CPS bureaucrats of various ranks who were being paid to sit, smile, and do nothing for the entire day but take over seats that should have been available to parents, teachers, and others who had come to the supposedly public meeting. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Hence, the Board's computers lock out anyone who tries to sign-in on line after number 60. Since the beginning of 2013, each "Board of Education Public Speakers" listing has had exactly 60 names on it. No one knows whether 100 or more people had things to say: the number is frozen at 60.

Rebecca Martinez (at microphone) was the first person to speak who had actually been listed as part of the public participation. After she made some brief remarks, Shannon Bennett of KOCO was given the microphone and began to talk about the impact of the closings on the schools of Bronzeville, where he has worked for more than a decade on public school issues. Once Bennett began speaking, CPS officials ordered security to drag the podium back from where the speakers were and force Bennett out of the meeting. Substance photo by George N Schmidt.Under Vitale's new ruling, the ability to sign up to speak has been limited to those who could register on line using a computer. With the total number capped at 60 no matter how many people might wish to sign up and speak on an important issue, there are many exclusions, and much frustration. Since January, the sign-in has begun at 8:00 a.m. on the Monday before the Monday before the Board meeting, continuing until all 60 allocated slots are filled. Sign-in for the May 22, 2013 Board meeting was thus held on May 13, 2013. Since February 2013, the slots have been "filled" less than one hour after the electronic registration has begun. Those who try to sign up to speak after the magic number are locked out, no matter how important their problems, how vast their experience, nor how legitimate their grievances. Frustration over the mechanical application of the arbitrary rule and the class biases implicit in it have been boiling for months. They boiled over at the May 22 meeting, as was evident early and continued throughout the meeting.

This policy has had a great impact on poor and working class citizens who do not own their own personal computers, or who are not able to access a computer at precisely 8:00 a.m. on the day of registration. It is worsened since the election of Mayor Rahm Emanuel by the fact that the mayor radically cut the hours in public libraries across the city shortly after his May 2011 inauguration. No branch library is open before ten o'clock in the morning nowadays, and many are opening at noon.

The result of the combination of these two Emanual administration policies -- both unprecedented in Chicago history -- is to exclude most poor and working class people, the majority of parents and students in Chicago's real public schools, from even being able to register to bring their concerns about the public schools to the Board. And since the Chicago Board of Education's is only meeting once each month, and has no public meetings outside of its downtown headquarters, the restriction on democracy is significant for most of the city's citizens.

This photograph shows the disparity between the censorship utilized by the Board and the attempts by news reporters to cover the actual story as it unfolded. Above, reporters try to photograph the manhandling of Shannon Bennett during the first speaker's public participation, while the TV monitor blacks out the real action and shows Board Secretary Estela Beltran. Sitting beside Beltran in the above photo is her assistant, who can be seen turning to look at the violent suppression of dissent that is unfolding a few feet away. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.One other result of this policy is that charter school advocates and the speakers from what are called "Astroturf" groups (i.e., phony "grass roots" groups funded, like Stand for Children and Democratic for Education Reform, completely by millionaires and billionaires) can pack a large part of the "public participation" during the meetings. Groups and individuals who have access to computers outside the public libraries are then doubly privileged. While CPS officials drag away those advocating for real public schools, extra time -- and smiles and nods from CPS officials -- is allocated to charter school and privatization proponents.

The injustices, as a matter of policy, had become more and more clear as 2013 progressed. At no time was this made more clear to those citizens than at the time of the May 22, 2013 Board meeting. The results were explosive, although the censorship of the meeting video keeps most of what actually took place from most of the public. The Board of Education always begins the "public" participation portion of its meetings with public officials. At the May 22 meeting, there was an unprecedented number who showed up to speak -- nine aldermen, all of whom were critical of the Board's closings. Beginning at 11:00 a.m., they spoke, one by one, in opposition to the proposals on the public agenda. Each of the speeches by the nine aldermen is worth listening to, and is still available without any editing on the Board of Education's website and on the Cable TV version. They should all be reported elsewhere, but since they were not censored, they are not being detailed here. One additional observation is worth making, however. Even elected officials are treated with near-contempt by the unelected members of Chicago's school board. Smiles perhaps, but every Board members chooses to ignore the facts brought to them by aldermen and others who came to power democratically. At times, Board members make comments at the end of the meeting, usually smugly correcting what they perceive as the inaccuracies or incompleteness of the facts that are brought to challenge the pseudo-facts that the Board utilizes, in an ever changing array. On May 22, 2013, nine elected officials representing more than 200,000 Chicago citizens who had elected them -- many by considerable margins -- spoke to six arrogant, un-appointed members of the Chicago Board of Education. During the presentations by those nine elected officials, not one Board members asked a question or showed any indication of the irony: Six people appointed without democratic input by Rahm Emanuel lorded over those who represented democracy. Democracy was presenting facts and values, but was reduced to the point of begging for justice when democracy should have been stopping injustice. Most of the aldermen were somewhat deferential, although each of them showed a better knowledge of the schools in his or her ward than that of all the Board members and the Board's executives combined. The alderman who testified were: Latasha Thomas, Walter Burnett, Pat Dowell, Jason Ervin, Michael Chandler, Deborah Graham, Pewar, Robert Fioretti, and Ameya Proco Joe Moreno. Each of their testimonies can be heard in its entirety on the Board's website, since the Board at least for now doesn't dare censor elected officials. This report will not share what they said (we are trying to get complete copies of their remarks to post in another story), although hopefully other reports can focus on that part of the meeting. Also placed at the front of the line in front of the members of the "public" who had signed up were the presidents of the Chicago Teachers Union, Karen Lewis, and the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, Clarice Berry. The Board has traditionally given some public officials other than politicians this privilege of place as well. Karen Lewis smiled as Board President David Vitale congratulated her on her recent re-election to a three-year term as the union's president. Then she reminded the Board that the union opposed the closings and asked the Board members not to be on the "wrong side of history." Lewis, like the aldermen, actually represented democracy. On May 17, more than 80 percent of the members of the Chicago Teachers Union had voted to re-electe Karen Lewis and her entire slate to another three-year term in the leadership of the third largest K-12 union local in American education. The six Board members sat stolidly while Lewis, representing the city's 30,000 teachers, retired teachers, and other school workers, tried to get them to understand the magnitude of what they were about to do.

Chicago Principals and Administrators Association President Clarice Berry chastised the Board members for not consulting with principals on important decisions. She joined Karen Lewis in warning the Board members that their vote to close a massive number of schools would place each of them on the wrong side of history, quoting Elie Wiesel: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest it!” Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Clarice Berry is President of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association representing principals, assistant principals, and some other administrators most of whom work at the local school level. In her prepared speech, Berry told the Board that the closings were a mistake and chided the Board for not involving the principals in the process. She ended with a quote.


Good morning, President Vitale, Board Members, CEO Bryd-Bennett, and Staff:

The hour is upon this body to make its decision regarding the fate of over fifty school closings, turnarounds, and co-locations. This day's drama will play out on a national, if not international stage for all to witness. The consequences of the votes cast today will be written about, broadcast, and dissected long into the future. I don't envy your accountability this day, as it will have an immeasurable impact on thousands, who have the right to expect your faithful stewardship and impartial deliberation of their futures.

What troubles me most is the lack of outreach to, or input from the principals of Chicago Public Schools. Why assume that we had no valuable insight or institutional knowledge that would have been critical to the decision making surrounding this historic shuttering of educational anchors in minority communities. Hundreds of existing programs that brought fine arts, technology, social emotional wrap-around services, sports and recreational opportunities will be lost. Those programs and opportunities were sought-out, and flourished under great school leadership and LSC support. I would guarantee that no comprehensive catalogue exists of those benefits provided to the students, now to be lost when welcoming schools classrooms are filled to the rafters. It seems incomprehensible that CPS has beaten the charter school drum for parental choice in education, and now gives no choice to those who want and value the public schools their children attend. Was this; is this, the only plan available for our children, to become refugees in their own communities?

Where is the written long-term agreement and companion budget to continue the safe passage promised to parents and students swept-up in this quasi-emergency school closing plan? How will CPS maintain safe passage over the next ten years? Will the subsequent mayor, Board of Education Members or CEO be obligated to continue providing this safety-net, and if so, how? Your votes today will push this organization across the point of no return and leave the future safety and education of our children in question. My deepest concerns are for the over two-thousand special education students with various categories of special needs. As the mother of and long-ago teacher of special needs children, I am especially worried about the fate of these students. The lack of specificity about relocating this population is troubling in the extreme. The loss of nurturing environments, talented teachers, specialized accommodations and physical security may have irreversible consequences on academic improvement or socialization skills.

Lastly, the proliferation of incorrect data, half-truths, and misleading statements surrounding these school actions should leave anyone publishing, speaking, or believing them, heartsick and betrayed.

I will leave you with a quote from Elie Wesel: Holocaust Survivor. "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest it!" By noon, those who signed up to speak were finally able to begin speaking to the Board of Education. The first person signed up for public participation was Rebecca Martinez. She began by asking the public to call the Secretary of State's police in Springfield, where a number of people had just been arrested in the Illinois capital for protesting the Chicago closings. Martinez then turned the microphone over to Shannon Bennett, a long time community activist with KOCO (Kenwood Oakland Community Organization), who spoke forcefully denouncing the closings. While people tried to remind the Board members that the sign-in policy was excluding most people who wanted to speak to the Board, Bennett continued speaking.

In a coordinated way, CPS security pulled the podium away from Bennett and towards Vitale, while others forced their way into the circle of supporters that had formed around Bennett and began to drag him away from the front of the room. Bennett continued talking against the closings while a number of large security people (CPS, not Chicago police) pulled and pushed him out of the room.

Before he could read his speech demanding accountability for all of the children and schools' staffs who would be affected by the closings, Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey had to wait for more than a minute while CPS security (left) put the podium back in place following the forcible removal of Shannon Bennett. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.While the disagreement was taking place with Bennett, the Board's TV cameras focused not on what was happening but on the Board's Secretary, Estela Beltran, who was sitting stone-faced staring straight ahead. At each point when a confrontation occurred during the next two hours, the same took placed. The video showed Beltran, not the security scrums.

Anyone watching the official TV version of the Board meeting would never know that a five-minute and violent confrontation had taken place while Rebecca Martinez was at the microphone. Instead, the camera cuts, as if this were carefully managed Hollywood work, to the next speaker, Jesse Sharkey, Vice President of the Chicago Teachers Union. Sharkey was the only one of the first four speakers who did not have the microphone ripped away from him when Beltran called "Time!" He outlined how the Board had failed to provide any serious research on the previous closings, and listed all of the things that CPS should be doing professionally to substantiate its claims about the benefits of the closings, the ability of the "Welcoming Schools" to seriously provide for the educational needs of all the students who were heading towards them, and security issues. As Clarice Berry had noted earlier, the "Safe Passage" needs of the children moving into the "Welcoming Schools" from other schools do not end after one year. For the youngest and most vulnerable children, there needed to be plans lasting more than eight years into the future on the security side alone.

Few observers believe that anyone in the current CPS administration will still be in Chicago and overseeing schools as soon as two years from now. Barbara Byrd Bennett 18 months ago was in Detroit, where she was helping the city's financial manager dismantle to city's remaining public schools and bust the unions, including the teachers, and the principals' organization. The majority of the people sitting behind the railings at the Board meeting did not even work for Chicago Public Schools two years earlier, when Rahm Emanuel appointed the current Board of Education members and made Jean-Claude Brizard "Chief Executive Officer." At the time Emanuel began running for mayor, in late 2010, the "Chief Executive Officer" was Ron Huberman, and "accountability" (based on a different set of "metrics") was being overseen by a former Chicago Transit Authority official named Sara Kremsner. Both Kremsner and Huberman, along with most of their highly paid colleagues, are goine. Two years ago, CPS had an "Interim Chief Executive Officer," Terry Mazany, and a "Chief Education Officer" who has been long forgotten.

In May 2013, the top executive posts no longer included the "Chief Performance Officer" job that had been done by Kremsner, and apparently the work on that is being handled by a former consulting specialist from the private sector, "Chief Transformation Officer" Todd Babbitz. While the system and Byrd Bennett have repeatedly claimed that they are broke, Byrd Bennett has hired new, out-of-town executives every month since she unseated Brizard in October 2012. The most recent of those, who observers joke should be called the "Chief Pacification Officer," is a former Marine named Tom Tyrell. Tyrell's chief qualification for work in the nation's third largest public school system seems to be that at one point, while a Marine Colonel, he was in charge of part of the NATO pacification of Kosovo.

Not one of the Board members answered Sharkey's questions, at the time he spoke and later when they delivered carefully prepared speeches before voting to close an unprecedented number of public schools based on a dubious set of excuses and pretexts, many of which had been challenged by the Board's own hired hearing officers.

The police state tactics resumed shortly after Sharkey left the podium. Following a brief interval when parents from Barton School thanked the Board (and criticized the lies of their "Chief of Schools" Adrian Willis from the hearings) for removing Barton from the Hit List. At precisely the two-minute call ("Time!") CPS security (left) sntached the microphone away from Trumbull parent Alison Burke (second from right) who had been outlining in detail how every claim made by CPS to justify the closing of the school was wrong. Burke looked shocked when the microphone was pulled away from her with only a few sentences remaining in her carefully prepared remarks, and later stayed for the Board vote to destroy her family's public school. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Then it was back to "Time!" and the microphone grab.

The next speaker was Alison Burke, a parent, who refuted every claim made by CPS officials regarding Trumbull Elementary School. She provided the Board with dramatic refutation of the Board's various claims about the school's "utilization" and described the disruption of special education programs that will be caused by the closing of Trumbull. At the end of her remarks, she described how placing the Trumbull children into Pierce was another example of the problems based on wrong data. As she was telling the Board that Pierce already is approaching overcrowding, yet CPS is trying to force the Trumbull students into Pierce. She didn't get a chance to finish. When Burke's carefully organized presentation began to go slightly beyond the meager two minutes allocated, security pulled the microphone away from her and began moving her away from the podium. She left quietely, only to remain until the meeting's end to hear the insensitive passage of the Board Repot ending her school's life.

Burke's presentation was followed by a dramatic plea, one of two, that highlighted just how indifferent the six Board members and Byrd Bennett are to the real demographics of the city's real public schools. Both were made by principals and highlighted just how completely and cynically the Board of Education has been neglecting the city's real public schools in favor of other priorities.

While the dramatic issue before the Board on May 22, 2013, was the drive to close more than 50 of the city's real public schools based on the latest talking points and scripts issued by the mayor's office, a large part of Chicago, which in itself would be the second largest school system in Illinois, faces not a problem of "underutilization" but overcrowding. And as speakers pointed out during the hearings and now at Board meetings, the Board's policies of favoring charter schools and boutique schools have been undermining real public schools in parts of the city, forcing overcrowding on those schools while there are easy ways to make space available. Both of the speakers who highlighted overcrowding most dramatically were elementary school principals. Heather Yutzy, principal of Belding School on the Northwest Side, explained to the Board how its policies had left the school grotesquely overcrowded. Meanwhile, a nearby (virtually brand new) charter school built at CPS expense (Aspira Haugan) and a nearby boutique school for one of the city's wealthiest communities (Disney II) were using space that could be allocated to relieving the overcrowding at her school and at others in that area. "Aspira Haugan charter school is underutilized and underperforming," Yutzy told the Board at the May 22 Board meeting, as she had told hearings in the months before. "Aspira Haugan should be closed and the building returned to the community." Yutzy was rushed to the conclusion of her remarks. None of the Board members asked any questions about the overcrowding she described. The next speaker was Jackson Potter, who now works for the Chicago Teachers Union. "I've been coming to these meetings for awhile," he began, "since 2005 when my school [Englewood High School] was on the closing list."

Potter then brought the austerity claims of the Board into sharp focus. The union and its researchers have been highlighting the refusal of the Board members to raise revenues, even when it is necessary for the sake of the public school system. Potter's explication exposed how the Board is deliberately creating the shortages and austerity situation it then claims to be the basis for closing schools. "We met with Bank of America yesterday," Potter continued. "And executives at Bank of America said they would be willing to renegotiate the toxic swaps if CPS asked them to do it. But it's not even been requested. That's $36 million dollars. You've said that you have to close schools for budgetary reasons, but you haven't even asked to see money that's on the table. It's really unconscionable..."

At that word -- unconscionable -- the video of Potter's remarks ends. But the reality during the Board meeting didn't. Suddenly, Barbara Byrd Bennett was no longer in her seat, nor were some of her top officials, including the Chief Financial Officer Peter Rodgers. Byrd Bennett did not return for five minutes, apparently learning what Potter had been talking about regarding the toxic swaps, which were variable bond deals the Board had entered into, some of questionable legality, during the years Arne Duncan was CEO of the school system. The toxic swaps have been the subject of several public discussions during the Board's budget hearings, beginning in 2009 when members of CORE, the caucus that now leads the Chicago Teachers Union, brought the matter before the Board's annual budget hearings. While Byrd Bennett was leaving the room to learn more about how CPS was hiding behind the toxic swaps negotiated by Arne Duncan and left in place to drain the system's finances, the drama at the microphones continued.

When Jitunda Tillman tried to object to the proposed closing of Garrett Morgan Elementary School, the security guards swarmed him and dragged him away from the podium so quickly that the Board of Education's video didn't immediately turn away. The above photograph was taken while Tillman was being dragged from the room, less than one minute after Jackson Potter had gotten to the word "unconscionable." None of this footage appears in the official Board video of the May 22 meeting. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Jackson Potter had more to say, and then he turned the microphone over to Jitunda Tillman, from Garrett Morgan Elementary School. Before resuming the narrative, below in italics here are the remarks Potter had prepared:

I have to say that I hope you surprise me.

I hope that all of the reports aren't true that you are a rubber stamp board, that you will vast majority of school actions and have a few dissenting voices from Board members Hines and Azcoita to give the appearance that you actually deliberate.

I hope that the fact you are a board appointed by the Mayor doesn't mean you are a board that only does what you are told and the heart-wrenching testimony, the compelling rationales to keep many schools open — the need to maintain continuity, keep class-sizes reasonable, not negatively impact black students, keep students safe, the negligible differences between many level 2 and level 3 schools — makes you reconsider.

I hope that next time, which hopefully there will never be - you are honest about how much money you will really save or lose from the beginning and won't make specious arguments about how you are doing this to save money but then go on a spending spree with community gardens, ipads, air conditioning, safe passage, military transition advisors, etc. and that if it's really about the money you would beg and plead that Springfield, TIF recipients, Bank of America and those who the district has toxic swaps with --- would do something to avert the needless disruption of the academic growth and development of 50,000 students — instead of extolling the virtues of a highly unpopular and failed policy of school closings.

I hope that next time you chose not to expand charter schools like you did this year to the tune of $80 million and put there in areas where you exacerbate the so called "under-utilization"

And finally I hope that not one hair on a child's head is harmed from these haphazard decisions, that the students you displace do not suffer irreparable harm, that they do not disappear into the prison system or homelessness like many of the children CPS has lost touch with in the past and that we can embark upon a future that does not take the most from those who have the least as we aim to ensure that the inequities rampant in our city and country are addressed with more robust investments to our neighborhood schools and greater consideration towards the people that must live under the policies that the Board has decreed. (Jackson Potter).

Like most community activists, Jitunda Tillman had been unable to sign up to speak in time under the toxic computerized registration program the Board has established to restrict "public participation". Tillman barely began speaking about the injustices of closing Garrett Morgan when the same assault that had befallen Shannon Bennett came on him. The microphone was pulled away from him, the podium was pulled back away from the railing, and Tillman, along with several others were pushed from the room. None of these events appeared on the TV version of the meeting.

But nobody watching the TV version of Chicago Board of Eduction reality would have known what happened. After Potter says the words "unconscionable" describing the toxic swaps, the next thing the viewer sees is Magdalene Thurmond, speaking against the closing of Duprey and Von Humboldt elementary schools in East Humboldt Park. The choppy editing is obvious, and there is no transition. In fact, more than three minutes had taken place between Potter's last visible words and what the viewer sees next. The Board members had previously been given extensive information about the problems that would arise with the closing on Von Humboldt by First Ward alderman Proco Joe Moreno. They were all ignored. The microphone was cut off as Thurmond was completing her remarks, although her words can be heard for a few seconds on the official video as the microphone is being snatched from her.

Almost as if it were scripted to show the hypocrisy of what the Board was doing, as Thurmond was being pushed from the podium by security, the viewer hears the Board Secretary, Estela Beltran, calling for "Jimmy Prude." "Last call for Jimmy Prude," Beltran says. Then she goes on to the next signed up speaker.

No "Jimmy Prude."

What "Jimmy Prude" reveals is another example of how the Board's policy of computerized sign-up discriminates. "Jimmy Prude" was a Now Show. By the time the meeting was ended, more than a dozen people on the speakers' list were No Show. Every month, CPS refuses to allow more than 60 people to sign up to speak, based on the straight jacket claim that the "public" will never get more than 120 minutes to speak at each monthly meeting of the Board. The fomulaic version of reality (two minutes per speaker times sixty speakers equals the full two hours; no exceptions) had resulted in many undemocratic spectacles, many of which were on display at the May 22 Board meeting. But Substance reporters have kept track of the "No Show" list for each meeting since January 2013, and at no meeting have there been fewer than ten "No Show" per meeting. Alexander Roi, a teacher at Duprey, spoke next, echoing the request by the Von Humboldt and Duprey schools that they not be closed. Roi pointed out that everyone in office, including alderman Moreno and State Representative Soto were asking that Duprey not be closed. Roi presented the Board with a binder of information about the successes of Duprey and Von Humboldt.

After Roi spoke, another NO SHOW was called, "Terry Sumrall." The list then went on to Sharon Taylor, who was signed up to speak on behalf of Granville T. Woods Elementary School, another school slated to be closed.

Andrew Broy of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) repeated the usual INCS talking points about how Chicago charter schools are underfunded, while ignoring the role charter school proliferation has played in the centralized sabotage of the city's remaining real public schools, especially where charter schools have played a key role in the racist destruction of African American communities in Chicago. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Soon, the charter school promoters began speaking. Several had been signed up to speak, and almost all of them repeated the same talking points about "choice" and how charter in Chicago were discriminated against by not receiving what they claimed were the same funding levels as the city's real public schools. Left out of the charter talking points are almost always the fact that the charters were being opened, usually in public school buildings leased for one dollar a year (often after multi-million dollar renovations). Charters have also been given favored treatment by CPS officials since the days when Arne Duncan was CEO of CPS. Every time a charter school has been opened in a community, the charter school's marketing people are provided by Chicago Public School officials with the names of the top-scoring students in nearby real public schools. The recruitment then begins, including home visits. The CPS officials who provided this information to the charter school operators have often moved on to corporate charter school organizations.

Andrew Broy, who speak regularly to Chicago Board of Education meetings about how Chicago charter schools are being discriminated against, was at the podium again on May 22. Broy is head of a group called the "Illinois Network of Charter Schools" (INCS), a corporate funded not-for-profit that lobbies to expand charter schools in "Illinois" -- which almost always means more charters in Chicago.

Reality in several ways was brought back to the Board with the three speakers from Dewey Elementary School. Dewey was not facing closing, but "turnaround." The proposed "turnaround" of six elementary schools was a hot topic during the hearings, but was almost eliminated from the public focus of protest because of the massive number of schools facing closing outright, and those who would be disrupted as "welcoming schools" (the Orwellian locution CPS invented to describe the schools that will be receiving the refugees from the schools on the closing part of the Hit List).

The three speakers from Dewey all spoke about what amounts to the sheer incompetence and corruption of the way in which CPS under Rahm Emanuel's school board is being managed. The most dramatic moment for many observers came when parent and LSC member Ladisa Stamps told the Board that the school had had five principals in less than three years! The Board members, failing to even notice another example of how they are failing to manage the nation's third largest school system in the interests of the children, sat with stony faces as the three Dewey parents pleaded not to be placed in the expensive and insulting "turnaround" program.

Without using the word "sabotage," Ladisa Stamps of Dewey Elementary School told the Board that the school has had five principals in three years! Not one of the six Board members was paying attention as three speakers from Dewey made their case forcefully against an AUSL "Turnaround." When the voting came, all six Board members voted to turnaround Dewey without even having heard the name read when Estela Beltran read only the Board Report numbers of all the schools on the Hit List and David Vitale announced that he was "applying the last favorable voice vote." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Several issues that were brought before the meeting pointed directly to the scandalous incompetence of the six members of the Board and the administration of outsiders hired since Rahm Emanuel became mayor in May 2011. The complaints of schools about overcrowding pointed to another direction in which the priorities of the CPS leadership had been virtually against the community school. For all the talk, especially during the 2012 - 2013 school year, about facilities, demographics, and "underutilization," the massive problems of overcrowding, affecting dozens of schools, have been ignored as a matter of policy by the administration of David Vitale and Barbara Byrd Bennett. But it was not merely a question of ignoring a problem. As the principal of Belding Elementary School had pointed out pointedly, CPS policies -- viz., supporting the expansion of charter schools and the creation of boutique selective enrollment schools for certain privileged communities with relatively high income and generally white families -- has exacerbated the overcrowding problems in communities, such as the Northwest Side (where this reporter lives). Heather Yutzy had mentioned that the Aspira Haugan charter school (located in a brand new building which was given to Aspira despite the needs of the community for overcrowding relief during the administration of Arne Duncan) could easily be used to relieve the overcrowding at nearby Haugan and other schools in the community there.

The imposition of the so-called "Disney II" magnet elementary school created the additional demographic pressure on surrounding real public schools when the Duncan administration created it for the benefit of the wealthy property owners in the expensive "Old Irving Park" community on the Northwest Side. The most dramatic confrontation between CPS officials and the public supporting the city's real public schools came when Erica Clark, who works with "Parents 4 Teachers," one of many local groups supporting the city's real public schools, took the microphone at the podium. Clark was signed up to speak, and began reading the names of all the schools the Board would be voting to close later that day. But because of the two-minute limit on speaker times, she couldn't complete the reading of the entire list, it was so long. As opponents of the closings have been pointing out for months, Chicago was preparing to close the largest number of public school in any city in the nation's history. (A historical correction has been made to this record. Rahm Emanuel joins the white supremacist leaders of state like Virginia in the late 1950s. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown V. Board of Education required the integration of public schools in the segregated South, Virginia simply stopped its public public schools for five years. Although the Emanuel administration still tries to portray itself as liberal Democrats, the tradition in the Democratic Party to which Rahm Emanuel belongs includes the Democratic governors and legislators in the Southern States which stood in the schoolhouse doors to prevent the integration of public education in the years after Brown). Erica Clark's reading could have been taken out of protests against segregation in the South during the 1950s and 1960s. She read without melodrama, beginning with the names of all the schools. But the list is so long that she couldn't complete it, and when Board officials ordered her to stop talking, she simply continued to read the list.

She was dragged out of the room by CPS security. Hundreds of people later noted the irony of that part of the day.

When the Chicago Board of Education finally voted to close all the schools, the vote was taken not by reading the names of the schools to be closed, but by reading the designators from the "Board Reports" recommending each closings. The voice that had ordered Clark to be quiet, Board Secretary Estela Beltran, was the same voice that the public heard reading the sanitized numbers that indicated the schools would be destroyed.

Many noted that the ironic result of unleashing the Board of Education's police state tactics against Erica Clark was that at no time during the May 22 meeting were the names of all the schools on the historic Hit List stated at the meeting that closed the largest number of public schools in the history of America's large cities. Clark was uninjured, and the photographs of the assault on her democratic rights are becoming iconic reminders of how the Chicago Board of Education operated.

"Manierre is my school!" her voice echoed as she tried to read each of the names of the schools to be closed. But when she got to Peabody Estela Beltran tried to force her to "conclude." After the words "Pope is my school..." the screen goes blank. What the visitor from another city who goes to the Board's website doesn't see is that Erica Clark kept reading after she said, "Pope is my school..."

Instead of allowing her to complete the reading of the names of all the schools on the Hit List, CPS officials dragged Erica Clark bodily out of the Board Chambers. Some photographs of the dragging of Erica Clark made it into some news accounts, but anyone who is trying to get the official version of the May 22, 2013 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education would not only miss seeing the Police State tactics used against Erica Clark, but would also miss hearing the names of all the schools that were on the Hit List.

Later in the meeting, in the same voice that she used to call "Time" against Erica Clark, the Secretary of the Chicago Board of Education, Estela Beltran, failed to read the names of the schools to be closed before the Board voted to close all of them. Instead, she read the abbreviations of the "Board Report" numbers for each one, so that many of those present did not even know that when Board President David Vitale said, "Seeing no objections from my fellow Board members, I will apply the last favorable voice vote..." those words meant that the third largest school system in the USA had just voted to close the largest number of public schools in the history of the North -- without even having had the courtesy to say their names!

"Pope is my school..." continue to echo in the Board chambers while the commotion surrounding the removal of Erica Clark continued. But those watching the official, government video version of reality at would never know it. The next words the viewer of the official video hears are "Thank you Mr. President. The next speaker will be Speaker Number 17, Albert Mendez..."

When those words were spoken by the secretary, another charter school promoter took the podium. "I am a charter parents united supporter and parent..." Mendez claimed that the "CICS Irving Park Campus" is the "highest performing charter school in Chicago." Mendez's promotional talk for the charter schools ignored the role that CICS "Irving Park" plays in the overcrowding in the area, a fact noted earlier by the principal of Belding Elementary School (who did not mention CICS Irving Park, which was placed into a closed Catholic school six years ago). Mendez took up the charter school talking point which claims that charter schools suffer from a "funding gap" when compared with the city's real public schools. Mendez threatened to leave the city with his family if Chicago didn't stop what he called the "civil rights violation" of his children's right to go to a charter school and for equal funding for those schools.

The next speaker was Sophia Ragland. Ragland thanked Vitale for coming out to Carter Elementary School, which was slated for turnaround. She pointed out to the Board that the Board had placed the principal, Justin Moore, into the school this school year. Reflecting the concerns that had been mentioned by the Dewey parents, Ragland was noting that her school has had a principal for only a year.

When Ragland had finished, the secretary began calling more people who turned out to be "No Show."

"Last call for Kimberly Green," the words were heard. No one showed up at the podium.

"Last call for Cheryl Sistrunk," the words were heard. No one showed up at the podium.

Not one member of the Board of Education noted, then or later, as the number of No Shows increased, the irony of CPS restricting both the number and time for the public to participate in their meetings.

The next speaker was another charter school parent. Nereida Sanchez spoke in favor of Noble Street charter schools. Like most of the charter school supporters, she repeated her demand for "choice".

The No Show list continued after Sanchez spoke.

"Last call for Jitu Brown," intoned Estela Beltran. No one showed up at the podium.

"Last call for Margo Murray," intoned Estela Beltran. No one showed up at the podium.

"Last call for Allison Slade," intoned Estela Beltran. No one showed up at the podium.

Finally, after three No Shows in a row (and the sixth by that point in the meeting), David Montgomery, a teacher and data analyst from Calhoun North Elementary School, took the podium. Like most of the people from the Hit List schools, Montgomery provided the Board of Education members with information, in this case in the form of a binder, detailing why the Board's information forming the basis for closing Calhoun North was wrong. Not one Board member spoke, nor did any mention Calhoun North by name later, when each of the six gave their prepared statements about why they were voting the way they did

After more charter school supporters, the Board members were required to listen to more facts which contradicted their claims about the "underutilization" situation they were supposedly solving.

Keti Tuthorn, a parent with children at Courtney Elementary School, told the Board that Courtney was effectively being closed, even though at no time was Courtney on any of the "underutilization" or closing lists. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Two parents from Courtney Elementary School spoke, both noting that Courtney was not on any of the closing lists, but that suddenly Courtney was going to be closed and merged into Stockton -- but in the Courtney building! Keti Turhorn accused the Board of dishonesty, noting that Coutney was not on any of the closing lists, but that according to the agenda for the curent meeting, Courtney would be wiped out by the Board's upcoming vote. Katie Reed of Courtney said that same thing, and had the microphone snatched away from her after the Board Secretary called "Time!" on her. About an hour later, the Board voted to end Courtney without even reading the name of the school.

Before she began her remarks, Rosemary Vega of Lafayette Elementary School demanded that Barbara Byrd Bennett look at her while she got her "two minutes." In addition to reiterating the programs that were about to be destroyed at Lafayette, Vega noted that the large special education population at Lafayette would be endangered by the Board's planned action. Neither Byrd Bennett nor any member of the Board answered the issues raised by the Courtney parents, or by Vega.

Shortly after that, teacher, parent and Chicago Teachers Union representative Karl Hubert took the podium. After quoting the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Hubert reminded the public that the members of the Board -- and Barbara Byrd Bennett -- were in a context of history. But their historical ancestors are not those they quote hypocritically, but the white supremacist leaders in the old South who stalled desegregation throughout the 1950s and in most cases well into the 1960s despite the Supreme Court. Although Hubert didn't have time to share the historical details, the Chicago Board of Education's closing of Black schools was based more on the philosophy that was guiding the white supremacists who led Virginia when, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, it officially ended public education in the state for five full years rather than desegregated.

The main difference in 2013 is that those who foist a white supremacist agenda on Chicago come in a range of diversity, some even working for historical civil rights groups. As Karen Lewis had said earlier, however, being on "the wrong side of history" doesn't change the side of history that Andrea Zopp and Mahalia Hines, Barbara Byrd Bennett and Jesse Ruiz and the others -- all led by Rahm Emanuel -- ultimately are on.

Hubert had prepared a straightforward statement which ended with a quote from Plato. But Beltran called "Time!" before he could read the quote, so the microphone was snatched away from him and the video shows him speaking, but viewers can't hear what he is saying.

After Ronald Jackson of Tilden's LSC reminded the Board that Safe Passage failed to take into account sexual offenders living along the Safe Passage routes, he was escorted away from the microphone when he did not stop speaking when "Time!" was called. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Ronald Jackson of the Tilden LSC spoke next, and devoted his remarks to the lack of a true security plan and to the fact that students would be threatened by sex offenders living along the routes to and from school. When he continued speaking after "Time!" was called, the microphone was moved away from him, and then he was forcibly removed from the room by security.


June 5, 2013 at 10:10 AM

By: Hannah Hayes

Overflow room blacked out during meeting...

The hundreds of people in the overflow room [15th floor] also could not see what was happening, nor hear. When an altercation took place, the camera would remain on the secretary and the sound would be turned off. People had to text or tweet about what was going on ...

June 5, 2013 at 6:17 PM

By: Sherise McDaniel

Where is the actual May 22 report?

How can one obtain/ and watch a full unedited uncensored copy of the video?

June 6, 2013 at 5:32 AM

By: George Schmidt

Rahm's Censors destroyed the truth

Unfortunately, the public may never be able to see, from beginning to end, what actually happened and what actually was said during the meeting of the Chicago Board of Education on May 22, 2013. Nobody thought to independently video the entire meeting, because, perhaps naively, most citizens are still surprised when David Vitale, Barbara Byrd Bennett, and the others from Rahm Emanuel's school board decide to grotesquely violate the First Amendment and common decency in the face of democratic protest against their policies.

There are some rays of hope.

Substance had four reporters and photographers at the meeting. There were more videographers and photographers at that meeting than I had ever seen before at a Chicago Board meeting (I counted 40 at one point; it was impossible for every photographer to get into the small holding pen CPS has on the side and at the back for press photographers). Ironically, Chicago's daily newspapers had some of the best coverage because their reporters and photographers, like ours, were actually there. (Maybe that's why Rahm's buddies who own the Sun-Times decided to get rid of all the professional photojournalists a week later?). As a result, the coverage was not bad, although woefully incomplete. Were I still teaching journalism, I would use the lede from the Sun-Times story ("In less time than it takes to boil and egg...") to show that a reporter can combine good reporting and interesting writing. And, of course, the Sun-Times photographer, since fired by Rahm's buddies, got one of the best shots as the security dragged away Erica Clark for trying to read the names of all the schools that were about to be destroyed by the Board's vote.

But no one, to my knowledge, did an independent video of the entire meeting. Once the administration's censors did their dirty work, it may have become impossible for anyone to get a complete video history of that important meeting. As you can see watching the official video (also available on line at, the signal for the Police State to go into action against a speaker (for the real public schools; charter schools always get ooohings and aahings from the Board members), the speaker finds that the microphone is snatched away, and if the speaker continues to try and bring facts to the clueless, a larger team of government thugs moves in, in more than on case physically forcing the speaker from the room. The report we are doing here may be supplemented by Labor Beat as many of us piece together a true and accurate version of what the government of Chicago did to democracy and the First Amendment on May 22, 2013. But as far as I can see, Rahm Emanuel's six Board members and the executives have "won" insofar as they have blotted out what actually happened on May 22 at 125 S. Clark St. and replaced it, for the world to "see", with that stuff that's currently available on line at the government's website.

June 10, 2013 at 10:51 AM

By: Kim Bowsky

Hines caught lying on Christian radio

George, Dr. Mahalia Hines showed up on Total Christian Radio (Internet) on Monday and advocated against libraries by saying she didn't think students "necessarily needed libraries," but touted the advantage of classroom libraries as a substitute. She also said she wasn't sure there was inequitable funding, because the federal government funded all students at the same rate. She kept making statements about the teachers not deciding, but their union deciding. She persisted in saying that she doesn't hear about the students in any conversation, and when someone called her on it, she said she didn't say it. She claimed she didn't know about the Stand for Children Jonah Edelman tapes.

June 21, 2013 at 12:29 AM

By: David R. Stone

School Closings


Since you posted your question on the Substance website, you have ample access to facts that could answer your question. But it wasn't really a question was it? Rather, it was a sneaky way to make an argument for school closings by slipping in a false assumption.

So I will answer with a few questions of my own:

Why did the Board of Ed only count homerooms, and ignore Special Ed rooms, music classrooms, libraries, community clinics, etc. when declaring schools "half empty"?

Why did Board members fail to attend any of the public hearings that the Board itself sponsored to discuss school closings -- and then ignore the recommendations of their own hearing officers who recommended that some of the schools NOT be closed?

Why did the Board claim that its reason for taking such drastic actions was to save money in the face of an immediate "deficit" -- and then admit that no money would be saved for at least three years?

Why is there no transparency in the budgeting process, so that people can see if the Board's math is just as inaccurate when they count dollars as when they count classrooms?

-David R. Stone

full-time CPS teacher & part-time reporter for Substance News

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